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Common Mistakes to Avoid When Creating a Local SEO Strategy

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Connor Wilkins


20 Common Local SEO Mistakes to Avoid

As a business owner, you understand the importance of having a strong online presence. In the modern world, if customers can’t find you online, you are invisible. And that’s where local SEO comes in. 

By optimizing your website and online profiles for local search results, you can attract highly relevant traffic and drive new business. But creating an effective local SEO strategy is easier said than done. There are countless pitfalls that can derail your efforts, and even the best intentions can lead to dismal results.

If local SEO were a puzzle, it would be one of the most complex ones out there. With ever-changing algorithms and an endless array of tactics to deploy, it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle. But the good news is that you don’t need to be a digital marketing expert to succeed. 

By avoiding common mistakes and keeping your focus on the fundamentals, you can build a robust local SEO presence that drives real results

In this blog post, we’ll explore some of these common mistakes and help you steer clear of them. By the time you’re finished reading, you’ll have a much better understanding of how to avoid the most common pitfalls of local SEO and build a strategy that delivers results. 

From keyword research and on-page optimization to link building and review management, we’ll explore the key factors that make or break a local SEO campaign.

20 Common Local SEO Mistake to Avoid

Creating a local SEO strategy can be a complex process, and it’s important to avoid common mistakes that can limit your success. Here are 20 key mistakes to avoid when building a local SEO strategy:

1. Failing to optimize for mobile devices

Failure to optimize your local business website for mobile devices can result in significant drawbacks. For instance, your website’s bounce rate is likely to increase if it takes too long for the page to load (3 seconds or more) or if users find it challenging to navigate. 

Moreover, with Google’s mobile-first index, websites optimized for mobile devices rank higher in local search results, while websites that are not mobile-friendly are penalized with lower rankings.

How to avoid this:

When building web pages, start with a mobile layout first. This makes building responsive designs much more manageable, and helps to avoid common mistakes, like:

  • having unformatted margins that make content hard to read
  • buttons that are too small to click
  • oversized images that makes navigation difficult
  • staggered columns that disrupt readability

We prefer a front-end page builder like Elementor, which allows our webmasters to see how pages are formatted on desktop, tablet, and mobile before publishing. There are many page builders available — especially if you’re using WordPress — so find what’s best for you and be sure to apply mobile-first design when adding content to your site.

2. Neglecting local keyword research

Investing time into understanding what terms your target audience is searching locally and then including them in your content will help improve visibility for local customers on the hunt for what you offer.

Without localized keywords in your content, your site may not be found for geographical searches — and those are some of the most relevant searches for your business. 

How to avoid this:

Utilize a keyword research tool like Ahrefs or SEMRush. Start with a broad keyword and a location specifier, such as “Experienced Tax Attorney in [City or State].” From there, you can find related queries that can help inform more content. 

Additionally, you can use Google Trends  — a free keyword research tool. This can help you uncover trending keywords related to your business offerings and location.

3. Ignoring on-page optimization

Ignoring on-page optimization can result in a variety of negative effects, such as decreased visibility in relevant searches, issues with your site’s load time and performance, as well as an overall negative impression stemming from the lack of clarity and direction for search engine spiders. 

At the end of the day, proper on-page optimization is one of the best ways to ensure success in local search engine rankings, as it promotes good content organization that will allow engines like Google to crawl and index your site accurately.

How to avoid this:

Review your location specific web pages. Make sure you’re using localized keywords in the headers and body copy where relevant. From there, include location qualifiers in your Title, Meta Description, and Permalink — this will further reinforce geographic relevance. 

You should also piggyback off your keyword research to determine the user intent for your landing pages. Break these down into informational, transactional, commercial, and navigational. The user-intent should inform what types of CTAs, if any, you should include, relevant resources to link to, and more advanced tactics like schema markup.

4. Neglecting Google My Business

Google Business Profile is one of the most powerful local marketing tools at your disposal. And it’s free. Neglecting to set up or claim your Google Business Profile is a major mistake and one that’s easily avoidable.

Just know, without a Google Business Profile, you’re fighting an uphill battle in local searches, as you’re much less likely to show up as a relevant local result, and simply won’t be included in Google’s local search results database (the Map Pack).

Moreover, steps should be taken to optimize your GBP to improve visibility in local searches. 

How to avoid this:

Click here to either add or claim your GBP listing.

If you already have a GBP, quality check the following data fields:

  • Business category
  • Name, address, website, phone number
  • Short and long description
  • Hours of operation
  • Attributes
  • Services and Products

5. Not including local schema markup

Local schema markup improves the way your landing pages stand out in local search results. Schema adds relevant information to a Search Engine Results Page (SERP), providing users additional information that can encourage them to take action by clicking your link or contacting you directly. 

If you’re ignoring local schema markup and your competitors aren’t, then they’re likely earning a greater share of organic traffic.

How to avoid this:

Determine the most accurate schema needed depending on your business type. The most common schema you can add includes NAP information, but you can go above that to include social media and reviews in your schema markup, which will really help your web pages stand out in search results.

For more on local schema, check out this great guide we put together.

6. Failing to build local backlinks

Local backlinks not only improve your search engine ranking and visibility but they also increase the credibility and authority of your business within the local community.

Without local backlinks, your business may struggle to compete with other local businesses who are actively building their backlink profile. This can result in a loss of potential customers and revenue, and a failure to improve your online reputation.

How to avoid this:

Create “share-worthy” content that will be linked to organically. This can be something as simple as a list of the “Best X in [City]” — so long as the list is relevant to your business’ niche. We also recommend sharing your content on social media and GBP to improve referral traffic and exposure, which in turn can result in more organic backlinks to that particular page. 

For a more complete guide on local link building strategies, check out Chapter 5 in our Definitive Guide to Local SEO.

8. Not optimizing your URL structure

A clear URL structure helps search engines to understand your website’s content and makes it easier for users to find what they’re looking for.

If you’re URL structure is inconsistent or overextended, users and search engine crawlers may have difficulty understanding content hierarchies, which can cripple search engine visibility. 

How to avoid this:

Before publishing new content, edit your permalink to be under 75 characters long and to include location specific keywords. For instance, /service-in-city/.

If you’re editing existing permalinks, be sure to create a 301 redirect to the new source and scan your website for any internal inbound links so those can be corrected with the newly updated permalink. 

9. Ignoring the importance of social media

When it comes to local SEO, social media can play a significant role in improving your business’s online visibility. According to recent studies, businesses with active social media accounts have up to 400% more chances of being found online than those with inactive or non-existent social media accounts.

On the downside, being inactive on social media can lead to reduced online visibility, fewer engagement opportunities, and the potential loss of business to more active competitors.

How to avoid this:

If you don’t already have social media profiles on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, create those now. 

We use Zapier automations to share newly published blog content to various social media platforms. Automating this step ensures we’re always engaging our audience. 

If you don’t want to use Zapier, simply add a step to your content production checklist that includes sharing the post on social media.   

10. Overlooking local directories

Getting your business listed on multiple online directories is an absolute must for local SEO success. 

By creating online profiles on networks like Judy’s Book, Bing Places for Business, Yelp, and so on, you’re essentially expanding your reach to new audiences who use those sites to find local businesses.

If you’re not listing your business where your customers are searching, then you’re basically giving your competition an easy advantage that can otherwise be entirely avoided. 

How to avoid this:

Search your business name and address in Google to see where you’re listed online. From there, fill in the blanks. Be sure to prioritize the most popular directories in your city or state first. 

Additionally, you can use a local citation building tool, like Direction Local, to easily get listed on 100+ online directories quickly. There are other local citation tools on the market. We put together a comparative list for you here. 

If you  analyze your local competition before getting started, you’ll have clearer direction on what listings to tackle first. 

11. Not optimizing for voice search

Businesses that ignore voice search optimization are losing a significant opportunity to increase their visibility, credibility, and reach.

Voice search results are more accurate and context-specific compared to traditional search. Therefore, businesses that optimize their website for voice search are more likely to be featured in Google’s answer box, which can significantly increase the number of leads contacting you.

How to avoid this:

Improve your website’s natural language processing (NLP) capabilities to make sure it can interpret and respond to voice-based queries more effectively. This can be achieved by ensuring that your website content uses conversational, long-tail keywords.

  • Ensure that your website is mobile-friendly and optimized for local search.
  • Include location-based keywords in your website’s meta tags
  • Ensure that your website is listed on all major directories and map services, including Google My Business, Yelp and Apple Maps.
  • Leverage the power of featured snippets to improve the chances of your content being picked up by voice assistants. 
  • Focus on creating more conversational content that answers common voice-based queries related to your products or services.

12. Overusing keywords

Keyword stuffing refers to the practice of overusing keywords in a web page’s content, meta tags, and other on-page elements to try to manipulate search engine rankings.

While it might seem like a quick and easy way to rank higher on Google, keyword stuffing can actually have the opposite effect. Search engines have become more advanced in recent years, and they can easily detect when a web page is attempting to manipulate search results by stuffing keywords.

How to avoid this:

Use an SEO content tool like RankMath to optimize for local SEO. Inside RankMath, there is a feature that measures “keyword density.” Paying attention to this can ensure that you’re using a balanced amount of local keywords — enough to ensure your content is indexed accordingly.  

13. Not optimizing for featured snippets

Featured snippets are the answers that appear at the top of Google’s search results, providing users with a quick and concise response to their search queries. The importance of featured snippets has only increased in recent years, as more and more users are turning to voice assistants and mobile devices to search for information.

How to avoid this:

Keep in mind that featured snippets typically display answers to questions, comparisons, definitions, and steps. 

  • Ensure that your content is answering a specific question or providing a precise definition. 
  • Use industry-specific jargon and keywords in your content. 
  • Use tables and lists to break down complex information and make it easier for Google to process. 

14. Not optimizing your site for speed

Google considers site speed as a crucial factor in its ranking algorithm. Google has stated that faster loading pages are more likely to rank higher than slower ones. In addition, Google’s Mobile-First indexing and page speed updates have prioritized fast-loading mobile websites over desktop sites. 

Clearly, slow site speed can have a negative impact on your local SEO efforts in multiple ways — perhaps the most detrimental is that it can result in a higher bounce rate as users become frustrated and leave the site before it even loads properly. If your website has high bounce rates, it will signal to search engines that your website is not providing a good user experience, which can hurt your site’s ranking.

How to avoid this:

  • Website load speed is heavily impacted by the hosting provider you choose. Opt for a hosting provider with a reputation for being reliable and providing fast speeds.
  • Make sure to compress images to a reasonable size without sacrificing image quality.
  • A CDN can help decrease load time by caching content across a network of servers worldwide, making it easy for consumers to retrieve it from the server that’s closest to them.
  • HTTP requests occur when a page tries to load external files, such as JavaScript and CSS files. By minimizing these requests, you can significantly decrease your website’s load time.
  • Browsers cache data to speed up the loading process on a returning visit. This will help visitors’ browsers retrieve your website content more quickly.
  • A cluttered website design can overwhelm visitors and slow down website load speeds. By keeping the design simple and optimal, you can decrease the website’s load speed.

15. Failing to include contact information on your website

Including contact information (NAP) on a website is essential for local SEO rankings, as it helps search engines determine the accuracy and trustworthiness of the business.

When a website does not include NAP, search engines cannot accurately identify its location or classify it into local categories. This will lead to inaccurate search results for users in the local area, which will negatively impact their user experience. Additionally, failing to include NAP may cause search engines to view the website as less trustworthy, thus lowering its ranking in local searches.

How to avoid this:

Simply add your name, address, and phone number to the footer of your website and contact page. 

For enhanced local relevance, link to or embed your Google Business profile in the address.

16. Mismanaging duplicate listings

Duplicate listings can harm your online visibility and negatively impact your business because they confuse search engines.

When there are multiple listings for the same business, it can be difficult for the search engines to determine the correct listing to show in the search results. This can lead to a dilution of your online presence and reduce your ranking in search results.

How to avoid this:

  • Search for any existing duplicate listings on popular search engines, social media, directories, and review sites.
  • Claim ownership of all legitimate listings associated with your business, whether or not they are duplicates.
  • Check that you have a verified profile on Google My Business, Bing Places, and other directories to which you’ve submitted your business information.
  • Ensure that your business name, address, phone number, and other vital details are consistent across all online directories and listings.
  • If you discover multiple listings for your business on a given site, contact the site’s support staff to request that they merge or delete the duplicates.
  • Use popular Local SEO tools like Direction Local, Whitespark, BrightLocal, 0r Yext to check for duplicate listings and to help minimize their negative impact.

17. Ignoring negative reviews

When it comes to local search, Google looks at various factors to determine which businesses to display in the search results, such as proximity, relevance, and prominence. Now, prominence is where online reviews come into play. Google uses online reviews as one of the signals to determine a business’s prominence in local search results.

When a business ignores a negative review, it sends out a message to Google that they do not value their customers’ feedback. This can harm your business’s local SEO visibility, as Google may consider your business as less prominent.

How to avoid this:

This one is easy; simply respond to all of your customer reviews. 

Now, if you’re listed on multiple online review sites (which you should be if you’re following the advice in this article) then managing reviews becomes a bit more complicated since you have to monitor multiple listings. 

If this is the case, we recommend using an online reputation software, like Direction Local, to compile all of your customer reviews in a central location. This makes getting notified of new reviews, and responding in a timely manner much easier. 

18. Inconsistent NAPW

NAPW stands for name, address, phone number, and website. 

This is the basic data included in most online directories. If you’re NAPW is inconsistent or outright inaccurate then you’ll have a hard time showing up as a relevant search result in local queries. 

How to avoid this:

  • Conduct a thorough audit of all online business listings, social media profiles, and directories. This audit will help identify inconsistencies and inaccuracies in NAP information.
  • Verify your NAP information across all directories and online platforms.
  • Fix inaccurate NAP information. This could involve reaching out to directory websites, social media platforms, or other online sources to correct the information.
  • Continuously monitor the changes and improvements made to the NAP information. This will allow you to identify any further issues that arise and address them promptly.

19. Not optimizing image files

When it comes to running an effective local SEO campaign, optimizing your website’s images is essential. Without this crucial step, you won’t be able to capitalize on the benefits of search engine visibility and user engagement.

Poorly optimized images can lead to a range of negative effects such as poor SEO performance, low user engagement as well as a compromised user experience. This can all result in fewer customers discovering your brand and negatively impact your local SEO campaign.

How to avoid this:

  • Resize the image to an appropriate size.
  • Compress the image to reduce its file size without sacrificing quality or resolution.
  • Add a descriptive filename so they are more likely to appear in relevant searches related to your local SEO campaign.
  • Insert proper keywords into the ‘alt’ tag so search engine crawlers can index your images properly.
  • Include text captions to provide additional context for search engine crawlers.

20. Not using analytics to track performance

Tracking analytics is an essential component of any successful local SEO campaign. Not only will it allow you to monitor your progress, but it can also provide valuable insights into how your strategies are working and what needs to be done in order to improve them.

Without proper analytics tracking, you won’t be able to understand how effective your campaigns are and could suffer from a range of negative effects such as lower search engine rankings, reduced visibility, limited user engagement and decreased ROI.

By keeping track of your analytics you’ll be able to ensure that your campaigns are performing optimally and capitalize on the full potential of local SEO.

How to avoid this:

  • Choose a reputable, reliable and user-friendly analytics platform.
  • Identify which metrics are most important for assessing the performance of your local SEO campaign.
  • Use tags on each page of your website so that you can accurately track how users are interacting with your content and where they are coming from.
  • Make sure you’re actively monitoring and analyzing your data on a regular basis so that you can make informed decisions about how best to improve your campaigns.
  • Utilize automated reporting systems for summary reports about user behavior and campaign performance.

Start Building Your Local SEO Strategy Today

As you create your local SEO strategy, keep in mind that the key is to be consistent and persistent. Monitor your analytics on a regular basis in order to track progress and adjust as needed. By being reactive and prepared to make changes as necessary, you’ll be able to capitalize on opportunities for success.

Finally, don’t forget the power of expert knowledge. If you ever feel lost or frustrated by the process, reach out to a qualified local SEO expert who can provide insight and guidance based on their experience with successful campaigns. Take advantage of this resource whenever possible so that you are equipped with the best tools necessary to succeed in today’s competitive climate.

At the end of the day, no matter how challenging local SEO can seem, creating an effective strategy is well worth the effort. With proper research, knowledge and dedication, achieving positive results is possible – so get started now!

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